Questions for the Candidates

Let’s get candidates talking about kids in the 2017 NJ elections.

We want to know where candidates stand on children’s issues. The following questions have been submitted to the candidates for NJ governor. Once we receive their responses, we will be posting them here.

1. Helping Children in Poverty: New Jersey ranks among the wealthiest states in median family income, but year after year, roughly 30 percent of the state’s children live in low-income families (below 200 percent of the federal poverty threshold or earning no more than $48,000 annually for a family of four). For black and Hispanic children in low-income families, that percentage climbs to more than 50 percent. New Jersey is an expensive state to live in with high housing costs that strain family budgets, especially for those who are at an economic disadvantage.

If elected, what steps will you take to address the needs of New Jersey children living in low-income families struggling to make ends meet?

2. Addressing the Child Care Shortage: Each year, New Jersey provides subsidies to help pay for child care for approximately 60,000 children from low-income families, enabling parents to participate in the workforce. For the ninth year in a row, funding for the state child care subsidy rate has remained flat, forcing child care programs to cover the cost of doing business in 2017 with the same rate they received in 2008. This harms both the quality of programs and access to care, especially for infants. At $4.00/hour per infant, the rate has been so low for so long, that fewer providers can afford to accept our youngest children.

If elected, what will your short- and long-term plan be to address New Jersey’s child care subsidy funding?

3. Expanding Universal Preschool: For nearly 20 years, thousands of 3- and 4-year- olds in 31 of New Jersey’s poorest communities have benefited from a high-quality preschool. Research has shown that children who attend high-quality preschool have significant gains in academics, social and emotional skills. In 2008, the state Legislature approved an expansion of high‐quality preschool throughout New Jersey as part of the School Funding Reform Act, but the state never funded this critical mandate. However, this year, the 2018 state budget approved $25 million for preschool expansion. It is a positive step forward, but in the meantime, high-quality preschool remains out of reach for more than 35,000 3- and 4-year-olds.

If elected, what specific steps will you take during your first year in office to ensure that more New Jersey preschoolers have access to a high-quality learning experience?

4. Preventing Lead Poisoning: Lead is a powerful toxic metal that permanently affects child brain development and is especially harmful to infants and young children. According to the Center for Disease Control, there is no safe level of lead in a child’s body. Even small levels of lead have lifelong effects on children’s brains and bodies. Yet almost 25 percent of newly tested New Jersey children have at least some lead in their blood, with 3 percent above the level where state law requires intervention. Although New Jersey has made strides in fighting lead poisoning, progress has slowed.

If elected, what direct action steps would you take to permanently end lead poisoning for New Jersey’s children?